The citizens of Chester's Mill deal with daily problems such as acid rain, an undead mother, and an ageless teen.

By Chancellor Agard
July 15, 2014 at 07:37 AM EDT
Brownie Harris/CBS
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It’s hard to tell whether tonight’s episode of Under the Dome was better or worse than last week’s episode. On one hand, it surprised us all with a Junior story line that was actually interesting. On the other hand, this story line was not given enough attention because the episode spent too much time revisiting the science vs. faith debate through a low stakes crisis of the week—something Under the Dome has tried and failed at before.

This week, the town’s people had to deal with acid rain. Everyone was gathered at the diner and was preparing to head outside to collect more rain water. To their surprise, however, the rain was red and burned their skin. Unfortunately, the acidic rain looked more like cherry Kool-Aid, to borrow Norrie’s description, and didn’t seem all that threatening. Needless to say, the characters started to argue about the cause of the rain and how to stop it. Rebecca Pine, our least favorite high school science teacher, believes there’s a scientific reason for the rain, while Lyle (Dwight Yoakam), the town’s barber and new religious fanatic, believes the rain is the beginning of the apocalypse and is a sign that everyone needs to repent. He fanatically tells Rebecca, “There’s a new god in Chester’s Mill. It surrounds and embraces us all. It’ll show no mercy to infidels.”

Lyle kidnaps Rebecca in an attempt to convert her to his new faith system—let’s call it Domism. He ties her up in this old tool shed and proceeds to torture her with the acidic rain until she gives in to his fanaticism. Luckily, Barbie, Junior, and Julia arrive in time to save her. Julia tries talking Lyle down by bonding with him over their shared blind faith in the Dome (This week’s meeting of the moron club). Julia insists that the Dome has a plan and asks Lyle to help her achieve it. Thankfully, Rebecca brings their crazy bonding session to an end when she breaks free of her restraints and burns Lyle’s face with the acid rain.

It’s clear the crisis of the week’s only purpose was to revisit the science vs. faith drama and create conflict with quick resolution. The writers do away with the acid rain plot in a short scene that shows Rebecca spraying the lake with some chemical mixture.

While all of this is happening, Barbie and Julia, who keep forgetting that they have only known each other for about two weeks, deal with relationship problems. Barbie is starting to take issue with Julia’s blind faith in the Dome and people—as he should!—while Julia has problem with Barbie’s cynicism and belief that the town needs a firm hand to keep everybody in check (It seems like Barbie is a fan of Hobbes). Everything comes to a head toward the of the episode when Barbie and Julia find out about Rebecca’s plan to “selectively thin the herd” because of resource shortage. Julia immediately rejects the plan, while Barbie takes a moment to consider it, which leads to Julia laughably saying, “I thought I knew you. I was wrong.” Of course you were wrong to think you knew him! You’ve only know each other for two weeks! Is anyone really surprised at how quickly and easily their alliance fell apart?

Julia and Barbie’s relationship issues point to Under the Dome‘s problem with characterization. The writers expect us to put faith in and root for Julia, a character who is fairly unreliable, has shown poor judgement, and has done very little to earn our confidence. Moreover, her continued faith in the Dome makes no sense because the Dome’s presence continues to kill people. There is very little evidence to support her claim that the Dome is protecting them. When Barbie tells Julia, “Belief only gets you so far,” he has a point. Not sure what the writer’s intentions are, but it is becoming increasingly easier to root for the relationship developing between Big Jim and Rebecca.

NEXT: Pint-size relationship drama

The problem of character inconsistencies also continues in the children’s story line this week as Joe and the Mystery Girl, whose name we learn is Melanie Cross, form an inexplicable connection. A couple days ago, Joe wanted to kill Melanie, and now she’s calling him sweetie, caressing his hair, and making Norrie jealous. The only way it makes sense is if we accept the fact that the people of Chester’s Mill suffer from short-term memory loss.

While at the school, the three kids play around with Microsoft tablets (yay for product placement) and are surprised when they start to get an internet signal. As any Millennial in a crisis would do, they first check Twitter to see if they’re trending. (Only in the show’s world is Chester’s Mill trending on Twitter). Eventually Junior shows up at the school, and this is where things get interesting. While scrolling through emails, Junior opens an email from 01@houndsofdiana.com and clicks on the link contained within. He’s taken to a page that asks for his mother’s birthday information, he inputs it and is shown a video recorded by his mother Pauline.

Pauline starts out by stating the obvious, that she’s alive, and then tells her son that her ex-boyfriend Lyle, aka Mr. Crazy from earlier, is the only one with answers. Pauline has more to say, but the kids lose their internet connection before Junior finishes the video, and thus so many questions are left unanswered until next week. The most important unanswered question being: Does Pauline share Heroes‘ Isaac Mendez’s gift for painting the future? If so, is there a chance Heroes: Reborn will also take place under a dome?

Before Junior has a chance to visit Lyle, Uncle Sam, who up until now has been an enigma wrapped in boring, stops by the jail to see said ex-bf. In a cryptic conversation about secrets staying buried, we learn that Uncle Sam and Lyle go way back, and when the Dome first arrived in Chester’s Mill, the two of them agreed to keep a low profile. Obviously, Lyle didn’t stick to this plan because he has chosen to follow the Dome’s lead over Sam’s. Junior sees all of this on the police station’s security camera monitor. After Sam leaves, Junior strikes a deal with Lyle: If Junior lets Lyle out of prison, Mr. Crazy-Pants will answer all of Junior’s questions about Angie’s murder and his mother.

The episode’s title,”Force majeure,” is rather interesting when you think about what happens in the entire episode. As Lyle explains it to Sam, force majeure is an extraordinary circumstance that frees both parties from a contract. While this is directly applicable to whatever deal Lyle and Sam made, it also applies to both Rebecca’s plan of ridding the town of those who place a burden on society and to the show in general. The main conflict under the dome is whether or not the social contract, which provided order to social relations and described which actions were permissible within a civilized society, still applies. What Rebecca is suggesting definitely violates the social contract. Is the Dome an extraordinary enough circumstance that permits such a violation?

This question isn’t answered yet, but hopefully next week’s episode will examine both this question and the mystery surrounding Junior’s mother further. The writers have a poor track record of following up with interesting story developments. Last week, Rebecca’s assessment of the town’s resource situation looked promising, but it looks like we’ll have to keep waiting for answers on that front.

DomeWatch: 

–Did Julia saying the Dome talking to her remind anyone else of this famous Dr. House-ism?

–Joe finds Melanie’s photo in a yearbook from 1988, and Melanie looks like she hasn’t aged a day. Either something’s up with this girl or she uses some high quality anti-aging cream.

–What is up with Uncle Sam? Will we ever learn?

–Lyle singing in his jail cell… out of place?

Episode Recaps

Chester’s Mill residents suddenly find themselves cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable barrier, which surrounds the town in this Stephen King adaptation.
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seasons
  • 2
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  • 06/24/13
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  • In Season
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